Motorola Motoluxe £199.99
10th Apr 2012 | 15:25
Poor hardware meets dull design in this middling Android 2.3 smartphone
Motorola says that it's OK to go ahead and stare. No, really. When it comes to the Motorola Motoluxe, it positively embraces bad manners, because, according to Motorola, this handset is going to blow you aesthetics lovers away.
This Android 2.3 Gingerbread smartphone is lean and sharp edged - just like all you wannabe fashionistas - and has not one but two cameras with which to take pictures of yourself.
But, let's get down to the stats. The Motorola Motoluxe is decently trim, yes, at 9.85mm, but not slim enough to make it a hook of a feature, given that the Motorola Razr reboot was only 7.1mm.
Nonetheless, the phone feels quite nice in the hand. It's light, at 123g, but there's just enough weight there, plus a rubberised chassis, which means it sits well in the palm without feeling that it might slip out of your hand at any second.
Amusingly, Motorola sees the lanyard notification light as something to shout about. Interesting. It's not a new concept for Android phones (look at the HTC Rhyme, to name one) but on this phone it's bigger and more annoying, especially if you have your email set to auto-sync.
It's not all doom and scathing gloom though, since the Motorola Motoluxe carries a lovely screen: a 4-inch edge-to-edge, FWVGA display.
The graphics are decently sharp for such a low-to-mid range phone, despite only packing a single core 800MHz processor. It's still difficult to see the screen in direct sunlight, though.
Additionally, the Motorola Motoluxe carries an 8MP camera with LED flash, front-facing VGA and four capacitive touchscreen navigation keys.
Soft keys include a volume rocker and camera button on the right-hand side. This sadly doesn't work from the lock screen, which would have been a nice touch.
There's also a micro USB port, and the 3.5mm headphone jack sits next to the power button at the top of the chassis.
Once you've successfully figured out how to remove the metal battery cover, inside you have a removable battery, microSD card slot and SIM. The phone carries only 1GB of internal memory, but you can add up to 32GB with a microSD card.
Overall it's plain, black and slim enough to be uninterestingly inoffensive, but the design is just a little too... square... to really be marketed at fashion-loving folk, or anyone with a true love of design.
Priced at around £15 to £20/month on a two-year contract or £200 ($335) SIM-free, it was never going to be the Mulberry tote of the handset world.
The Motorola Motoluxe runs on Android 2.3 Gingerbread, which wouldn't be bad if the processing power were just that little bit stronger. Powered at only 800MHz, the Motorola Motoluxe is incredibly slow when flicking through home screens.
Apps fare little better, and if they require internet access, they're best used with the Wi-Fi on.
Speaking of home screens, the Motorola Motoluxe boasts not only seven home screens, but three separate profiles: one for work, one for play and, we suppose, one for when you turn into Mr Hyde.
With so many home screens and so many profiles, the generic apps list almost becomes redundant, given that you could probably fit the entire multitude of shortcuts on the home screens. The list still exists, but it's a little hidden, with a shortcut icon that looks more fitting for a media centre.
You can sort the apps list three ways: alphabetically, by most frequently used and by most recently used.
Set against the black screen, the menu really pops, making the colours appear deeper and brighter. The white typography also looks a little sharper as a result.
As well as the ability to turn your apps into shortcuts for them, there is also a good mix of Android and Motorola widgets, with the latter affecting a Windows 8-style tiling composition.
For example, the Motorola Activity Graph widget will compile your most used apps, automatically switching around the order, depending on what you use when, with your favourite appearing in the largest tiles, swirling down to the smallest.
It's an attractive idea, but it's a shame that the larger the icons get, the more blurred and pixelated they become.
One of the best features of Android is usually the handy notifications bar, but whereas with the HTC skin you can toggle the Wi-Fi and networks from it, with the Motorola Motoluxe you don't have that useful addition.
But you can simply add a networking shortcut to one of your home screens, which, we suppose, though less accessible, is still helpful.
A second helpful addition is the left-hand 'Settings' touchscreen button, which, from the home screen, brings you to the 'Manage apps' menu. From here you can manage what's running, so you're not leaking too much of that precious limited processing power on background apps.
Contacts and calling
Contacts are accessed from the four docked shortcuts at the bottom of the Motorola Motoluxe's home screens.
There are four tabs across the top of the contacts app: Phone, which takes you to the dial pad, Call log, Contacts list and Favourites. If you prefer to have an even quicker way of accessing your most-dialled numbers, there's also another tiled Motorola widget for the home screens that will automatically populate with the contacts you talk to most often.
Android is particularly good at integrating social networking with contacts, but unlike the HTC Sense user interface, the integration is a bit hit and miss on the Motorola Motoluxe.
Syncing your Twitter and Facebook accounts will auto-populate your contacts list with numbers and images stored in accounts, but doesn't always manage to pull through the latest status updates.
It should also, in theory, be possible to sync Twitter, but the Twitter app crashed often for us while doing this, and started a chain of near-constant error messages, so we had to switch off auto sync.
Other than this, the contacts app is quite bland, and there are also no options to manually sync contacts that have doubled up through adding several social accounts.
Adding a new contact is easy, although a bit hidden, given that you have to dip into the touchscreen settings button rather than having an on-screen option in the dial pad. You're then automatically walked through the options.
And if you're saving a missed call from a new number, rather than inputting a number from scratch, you tap and hold down the number to reach the same process.
When calling with the Motorola Motoluxe, the connection was good and the in-call volume level and sound quality was also decent, meaning we could hear our chatting partner just fine on many occasions.
But there was one thing that made us want to get off the phone: the design of the speaker means the chassis is cut out just where it presses against the top of your ear. Sharp edges and ear bones don't make a great combination - in fact, it's particularly uncomfortable.
That said, the quality of the call goes downhill whenever the other person is in a particularly noisy setting, emitting a ton of feedback in our ears.
The dialler supports smart dialling, picking out both phone numbers that match and alphanumerical letters that match the numbers you dial.
We feel we should point out that this handset also has the world's worst default ringtone. Hel-lo Moto indeed.
The Motorola Motoluxe is well set up for messaging, with SMS, MMS, Video messaging, Google messenger email and a Gmail app as standard.
Logging into your Google account when first setting up the phone will automatically update most of these with your inboxes and contacts.
The SMS app is tied to the home screen dock, as with the Contacts, and opens into the SMS inbox.
Click 'compose new message' to bring up the text editor.
The QWERTY keyboard isn't too bad, with haptics to aid your typing. The keys are nicely spaced but a little on the thin side, although it didn't take us too long to start typing quickly.
It's also easy to use with one hand. In portrait mode there are shortcuts to the most used punctuation marks, plus a shortcut to the Android smileys, which is a sweet touch.
You can also see the last message or so of the conversation history when typing in portrait, but when replying in landscape the keyboard and new message fill the entire 4-inch screen.
With the Motorola Motoluxe email app, it's possible to set up several accounts to land in a combined inbox; when you first open the app you're prompted to add an account. After that, simply click the 'Settings' key and click 'Add account'.
There's a handy home screen for your accounts, enabling you to click through to all your emails combined or to see them in separate inboxes.
The keyboard is much the same in the email app as it is for messaging, but without the whimsical android smileys. Click on the droid icon to be taken to your contacts list.
When replying to an email, scroll down the screen to see the email that you're replying to.
If you're looking for instant messaging capabilities, you're quite spoilt for choice, given the ubiquity of apps for IM, such as Facebook Chat, Gmail Chat and Skype.
For a low to mid-end handset, the Motorola Motoluxe has a solid, if quite slow, range of connectivity options, including HSDPA at 7.2Mbps, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA and Wi-Fi hotspot capability.
The HTML 5 browser loads image-heavy sites such as TechRadar.com slowly, taking about a minute to fully render the homepage. Once finished, the images are still pixelated and poor quality when zoomed in.
Text reflow, copy and paste and pinch to zoom capabilities are all present. The screen is mostly responsive to navigating around a page, but sometimes lags when scrolling.
The Motorola Motoluxe should also supposedly support Flash, but it didn't work when we tested it.
We later found that while the Motorola website says that "Adobe Flash 10.1 is supported", it immediately adds "(available as a download from Android Market)", so perhaps we needed to install the right app to make this work.
Bookmarking means dipping into the Settings menu either by viewing the bookmarks menu, then clicking settings again to 'Bookmark last viewed page' or from the original menu clicking 'More' and then 'Add bookmark'. Either way, it's quite fussy.
The bookmarks page itself is nicely tiled and laid out, though, including both a most visited and a history tab.
If this middling experience isn't for you and you don't like the stock browser, then the Google Play app store offers the usual suspects (Opera, Dolphin, Firefox) to download free of charge.
We didn't feel that Opera loaded a great deal quicker, but it does provide a fuller traditional browser experience, such as multi-page browsing.
At 8MP, the Motorola Motoluxe looks at first like it could be beginning to live up to its name... but alas, the promise is unfulfilled. There's little that is luxe about this camera experience.
There are the usual scene modes to choose from (Portrait, Landscape, Night, Sunset, Action) and a few terrible 'Colour effects' to add, if you enjoy blue photos, but that's really the end of the line.
Annoyingly, the functions menu is unmoved by any accelerometer action, so if you're taking a picture in portrait orientation, you'll have to read the menu choices upside-down. Not only that, but seemingly as soon as you tap it, the thing collapses again, so decide fast what menu choice you want to make.
There's a second function menu, found by clicking the 'Settings' touchscreen button. From here you can delve further into the menus to find true advanced settings (white balance, brightness, contrast and so on) but no matter what variations in picture size/quality/settings we tried, these advanced settings stayed continually greyed out and out of our grasp.
There's a 4x zoom plus LED flash, but one pixelates dreadfully and the other completely washes out any photo where a flash is deemed necessary.
The autofocus is a bit of a dud: when you tap the screen, the menu pops up. Wait for that to go and then click the shutter, however, and the focus will be squarely in the middle of the screen, often not where you tapped. Keep tapping the screen and the menu will just stay there, covering the capture button.
That said, it's quite good at focusing on something very close to the viewfinder, thus creating a slight depth of field blur in the background,
The Motorola Motoluxe's video isn't much more impressive than the image capture mode. In fact, if anything it's a little worse.
The highest quality resolution you can get with this is 800 x 480, but annoyingly the default capture setting is 640 x 480. If you want to change this, you'll have to dip not into the sidebar settings, but use the touchscreen 'Settings' button, which brings up a second menu.
Here you can find a token gesture to editing where you can change the capture quality, the codec and the white balance.
Speaking of the sidebar menu, again linger over the scant choices at your peril, because as quickly as you tap the bar out, it will collapse again. Here you'll find the flash mode, colour mode, camera flip to front-facing VGA and choice to change back to still image mode.
You can't zoom when shooting, not even using the volume rocker. There is a light in 'Flash mode' to use when shooting darker scenes, but as we show, it's about as helpful as a chocolate teapot.
In our first video, a slow pan around a dimly lit bar produces an almost useless video - people by lights are plunged into silhouettes and others are not discernible at all. And a blinding additional light hasn't made much difference.
The camera fares a little better outside where there is a tad more light. The image is still incredibly pixelated and the movement is jerky, but people and buildings are easily visible.
In the next video, the action of the moving cars is quite smooth, despite a little handshake. The harsh sunlight has all but bleached out the blue of the sky, and the audio of the cars plays back as simple noise distortion.
Using the sepia colour mode lends a lot more contrast to the video, meaning areas and things that were washed out in the sunlight, such as the moving birds, have more depth to them.
There are several widgets you can access the Motorola Motoluxe's music player from, depending on how important a feature it is to you, but the pre-installed Music+ app is probably the most fully featured of the lot.
Listen to your music library, internet radio, search YouTube or use SoundCloud to figure out what song they're playing over the radio/bar/coffee shop airwaves.
The Motorola Motoluxe music players support a variety of codecs, including AMR, AAC, MIDI, MP3 and WAV.
Playing a song will display the imagery, the lyrics and shortcuts to the functionality features mentioned above.
But as attractive as that is, the important thing is the sound quality. And whether you're using the vanilla music player app or Music+, over the speaker the resulting sound is occasionally tinny but doesn't distort at its loudest volume.
With the supplied earphones, which are slightly more upmarket than moulded plastic but no less uncomfortable, the sound is a little fuller, and again, there's no distortion at the loudest volume.
That said, it doesn't really go so loud that you wouldn't be able to stand to listen to it.
As for the layout of the Music player, the display lists by album, artist, songs or playlist, with the album art displaying along with repeat, shuffle and playlist shortcuts.
To add a song to a playlist simply find it in the aforementioned menus, press and hold to bring up the actions menu. You can also use the media files as a phone ringtone.
Once your music of choice is playing, the media player shortcut is accessible via the notifications pull-down menu, but isn't actually controlled from there: clicking will simply bring you back to the app.
Along with the internet radio capabilities of the Music+ app, there's also a traditional FM radio. It's fully functional, with the ability to record your favourite stations.
It turns out this isn't a truly wonderful perk though; recordings are fuzzy and distorted, with terrible playback. Shame.
However, the radio will auto-scan for stations, populating the scrolling display with the name of both the station and the show you're listening to.
There's smooth playback from the video player, which is oddly not accessible from the apps menu. To play a video file (MP4/WMV/H.263/H.264 supported), you'll have to go to the file manager and choose to open it with 'Films' or 'Video player'.
The video quality, while watchable, isn't truly sharp, but it's passable for some casual commute entertainment.
The one thing that mars the experience slightly is the low sound quality and no equaliser menu to toggle with; you'll only just about hear this over the sound of the train you're on.
The Motorola Motoluxe's rubberised chassis is comfortable and handy to grip, and the lightness really adds to this, but the square corners don't fit so nicely into the palm, plus the positioning of the headphone jack means it juts into the skin rather than sitting neatly on the hand.
Inbuilt into the Media possibilities is also the little gem of the MediaSee app, enabling you to stream content from other devices. It was excellent at streaming music content, but sadly was unable to play any of our available video content. It's a shame, since it's a great additional option if you're bored of the contents of your SD card but don't want to faff around editing the files on there.
Speaking of SD cards, the Motorola Motoluxe has just 1GB of internal memory, so you'll want to add a microSD card with a capacity of up to 32GB for your media storage needs.
Battery life and connectivity
The battery powering the Motorola Motoluxe is a Li-Ion 1400mAh that, coupled with the low processing unit, means you ought to get a good amount of time out of this.
Motorola quotes talk time of around 6.5 hours, and you do get a little longer than that, if all you're doing is using a few light apps, playing a few games, using a little Wi-Fi and making a few calls and texts. With that sort of usage, you'll easily make the battery life last into the night.
But making good use of the video player, the Wi-Fi and the internet-based apps, we drained the battery in four hours easily. In fact, there were few days when we didn't have to top up the charge before the day was done.
That's pretty standard for a juice-draining dual-core smartphone such as the Apple iPhone 4S, but for something so middling as the Motorola Motoluxe, it seemed to need excessive charging.
3G (HSDPA 900 / 2100), HSDPA, 7.2Mbps, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n (plus hotspot) and Bluetooth mean the Motorola Motoluxe is a well-connected mid-range Android phone.
There is a DLNA client on board, the useful MediaSee app, although all video from the DLNA-enabled devices we could stream from failed to play. Audio worked just fine, however.
You can also tether using USB. It delivered predictably dire speeds, but it did indeed deliver them, which is something if you desperately need an internet connection and all you have is your phone.
When you connect to a PC via a USB cable, the Motorola PC Synchronisation Tool automatically prompts an installation. It's not a full-blown PC suite by any stretch though, so to edit the files you'll have to simply drag and drop.
Maps and apps
The Motorola Motoluxe comes fully loaded with the usual Google Maps experience; it takes around half a minute for the GPS to lock on, but is accurate once it's done so.
There are directions and satellite/traffic/terrain overlays, but no particularly interesting app integration outside of the usual Google settings.
Google Play provides the app store goodness for the Motorola Motoluxe; all the popular favourites are there, but given the poor processing power plus the small 1GB internal memory, you'll get a good game of Cut The Rope out of it, but not much else.
The store is easy to navigate and to use to download apps though, using your Google account for any purchases that require actual pennies to be spent.
The Motorola Motoluxe comes quite thin on pre-loaded apps, which is surprising given its ''ideal accessory" marketing angle. There's all the Google apps your heart requires of course, plus Facebook and Twitter, QuickOffice and Voice Command, Android's own voice-activated search function.
All in all, it's a bit of a blank slate, waiting for you to come and tailor it to your own needs.
All apps can be organised, customised and added to the billion and one home screens/profiles; you won't be at a loss to make it easier to get to your favourite apps.
Hands on gallery
We don't know if Motorola has actually seen a fashionista these days, but lately the Fashion Week set have to do a lot more than just hold their phone and act pretty.
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The Motorola Motoluxe, despite the attempt to pass it off as a somewhat luxury item, is resolutely mid-range and middling. It's not terrible, but it doesn't particularly shine either.
It has a lovely screen size to be sure, but the rest of the hardware lets down the potential of the stand out offerings of this phone, such as the 4-inch edge to edge screen and the 8MP camera.
The rubberised light chassis, thanks to the metal-plated battery cover, didn't feel cheap in the hand.
We really liked the screen size; 4-inch edge to edge, with decent colour saturation, meant watching a video or streaming content was decently pleasurable.
The sound quality was generally good when making calls (with occasional feedback), and for casual social networking or internet-based app use, it's a solid phone.
The slow single core processor, however, meant that navigating the phone often produced lag.
We didn't like the performance of the let-down camera, 8MP or no 8MP. In fact, with the blurry images and washed out, over-exposed images, it had to be the single most disappointing 'selling point' of the handset.
HTC Desire S review
We've established that the Motorola Motoluxe is no real fashion accessory.
Not only that, but at around £20 per month, the performance isn't up to scratch with even other older-but-more capable Android phones, such as the HTC Desire S. It's more of an entry-level handset than one for a capable smartphone user.
Or wait to see if the HTC One S with Beats technology comes up with the goods instead - with a dual core processor and Android Ice Cream Sandwich at only £10 or so more a month, it's looking likely to be the better buy.
At a too-high price point for the performance it gives, the Motorola Motoluxe is probably not worth the punt. Comfortable but not sleek, this is no cool fashion accessory as the company would have us believe, and is only just functional enough.
Hang around for the newer Android phones running Ice Cream Sandwich and get twice the smartphone for only a little bit more buck.